The Imperial Arms, affectionately referred to by regulars as the ‘Impy’, is a gastro pub in Chislehurst nestled in Old Hill. It re-opened after a complete refurbishment two years ago, when Tina and Alan took over as the new landlords, who have turned the place around.
In fact it has been named by Trip Advisor as the number one restaurant in Chislehurst for most of the past year and is also the only pub in Chislehurst to appear in the 2015 Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide for the past 5 years.
So when Visit Chislehurst caught wind that a new wine bar opened next door, we felt it was our duty to show some community spirit and check it out for our readers. And after a sampling a few of the dishes, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine (hic!), we are now on a mission to help spread the word.
Tina and Alan have not missed a trick. Every detail has been thought through and there is a story behind everything – from the location, decor, dishes, customers and the team.
Imperial Courtyard wine bar is unique to its big brother pub
Opened in the summer, the wine bar sits next door to the Imperial Arms pub in a pretty courtyard, which used to be home to the Thai restaurant.
It boasts a complete makeover thanks to Tina’s brother, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the famous interior designer to celebrities. Whilst he also designed the look and feel of the Imperial, both establishments are very different.
The only similarity is a nod to a Napoleon theme (the pub was originally called the Windmill then renamed after Napoleon III, who was exiled to Chislehurst in 1870).
The wine bar, however is cosier, more stylish and intimate – perfect for any occasion whether it’s a romantic meal, catch-up with friends or to hire for functions. So far they have had birthdays, baby showers, hen parties, wakes and business meetings in there.
Quality wine in addition to the huge selection next door
The discreet bar sits in the little ‘L’ shape which means you either see it or you don’t, depending on where you choose to sit – romantics, take note!
There are 24 excellent quality wines of which 14 are served by the glass (red, white, rose and Prosecco) and that is in addition to the huge selection next door. Each one has been personally selected by Tina and a close group of friends as she says her mantra is to gather opinion from as many people as possible – and that goes for the food too.
If you’re not sure which one to choose, Tina will happily recommend one that suits your mood or taste. The house red is very popular and I enjoyed a Spanish Ribera Del Deuro.
Hearty small plates are all home made
Whilst the website advertises ‘tapas’ style dishes, this is slightly misleading. They’re certainly not full-on meals, but ‘small dishes’ are a better description.
Presented on simple white china plates or in glass pots, the portions are hearty, rich and plentiful in size and flavour.
My dining companion and I tried five tasty dishes:
· Giant gordal olives
· Crispy pork belly bites with apple and thyme sauce
· Potted shrimp with micro herbs and toasted sourdough
· Mackeral pate with caperberries, balsamic onions and artisan breads
· Griddled spicy chorizo with homemade romesco sauce
Only the best produce and a special memory behind every dish
With everything homemade using only the best quality produce, including the local award winning Higgs Butchers, each dish has a fond memory behind it.
Tina proudly takes inspiration from favourite dishes she has tried over the years – with four of the meats & cheeses on the Charcuterie and cheese sharing platter being sourced from London’s Borough market.
She can often be found in farmers markets sourcing unusual recipes and recently visited Maltby Street Market for her latest spicy hot dish in development (very tasty by the way!). Her ambition behind any dish is to answer “What is going to be the best burger? How can I make the best squid to die for?” and so forth.
Best chef in town
Lucky then that Tina has a chef who is as passionate about food as she is. Together they work hard to perfect every new small plate and test with customers before the items finally appear on the menu.
Arron simply loves cooking even at home after a hard day at work, where he is kept busy overseeing the kitchen for both the pub and wine bar.
His biggest priority - over serving great food for people to enjoy and tell other people - is consistency and delivering the goods every time. And the truth is in the pudding. Regulars apparently come back week after week for the same meals.
Regulars love it and you will too
So, a big tick for location, food and drink. But how about new faces – are they welcome?
The clientele are friendly and talk to anyone, but won’t invade your privacy. New faces are welcome and so are families. Or if you just want a quiet drink on your own, that’s OK too, which Tina is proud of the fact that many people come in on their own - women included - as the pub is so friendly.
“I’ve been a regular since the Imperial re-opened, and have been coming back here ever since. It’s a brilliant pub – friendly atmosphere and I give it 100%. I know the Courtyard will do really well,” says Paul, a regular there.
In addition to the great food, there is a whole host of entertainment to enjoy in the pub to compliment your plans. But you need to book to avoid disappointment.
Their Sunday Roast has received many accolades such as ‘best Sunday Roast ever’ which is served in the pub or restaurant. The Christmas menu will be announced soon too.
So whatever, tickles your fancy, this local hot spot should have something for you. It’s a whole lot of fun if you want to get involved, but it’s also pretty classy and cute too.
For more information
If you would like the Visit Chislehurst team to shine the spotlight on your business, please get in touch at email@example.com
We’d love to hear from you.
Article kindly written by Lorraine Hambleton, Communications Consultant and local resident; @hambletonl